With red and black balloons and a Northern Illinois flag behind him, Adam Buirge on Wednesday became the first Park Center High School football player in more than two decades to earn a Division I scholarship when he signed a national letter of intent.
Buirge joined teammates Caleb Cink (Dakota State University), Hector Fofanah, (Southwest Minnesota State) and Lawrence Ogunti (Valley City State), along with soccer player Emily Nelson (Concordia (St. Paul), for a 7 a.m. signing ceremony at the school in Brooklyn Park.
“All the hard work, all the hours — it’s a really unbelievable feeling,” Buirge said.
A Swiss Army knife in cleats, Buirge parlayed great speed — 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash — and ball skills into more than 800 yards of total offense and 15 touchdowns combined on offense, defense and special teams.
“I have recruiters coming in saying, ‘We didn’t believe it, but this kid can fly,’ ” Park Center coach Paul Strong said. “So I know Northern Illinois got a steal.”
The 6-0, 180-pound Buirge said Huskies coaches see him playing different receiver positions and likely returning kicks.
Strong said two summers ago the Buirge family spoke of Adam’s Division II prospects. Strong, a former Gophers player, dared them to dream bigger.
“Adam trusted us as a coaching staff to help fulfill his dream,” Strong said. “He set the bar that you can come to Park Center and be successful.”
Buirge, who attended Totino-Grace his freshman year, returned home to Park Center, a school of 1,300 students, focused on elevating the long-suffering program. The Pirates went 5-5 last fall, their first non-losing season in more than 15 years.
“The senior class wanted to turn the program around and we did,” Buirge said. “This is a big accomplishment for Park Center, and it feels good to be a part of it.”